KUCHING: A Penan student admitted to Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Sarawak in 2011 joined her course mates at the 84th Convocation Ceremony yesterday to become the university’s first Penan graduate.
Lonnie Jalung, 24, received her Second Class (Upper) Bachelor of Administrative Science and Policy Studies at Dewan Jubli, Samarahan 1 Campus from UiTM Pro Chancellor Tan Sri Dato Seri Utama Dr Arshad Ayub.
Residing and working in Miri, she nearly didn’t come to her own graduation as she couldn’t afford the flight back to Kuching and the graduation gown.
“And she’s too proud to admit any of these,” said Violette Tan from Penan Helping Hands who played a role in Lonnie’s life since the beginning by providing for her passage.
Lonnie attended the graduation, witnessed by her proud father Jalung Jok, her sister Terpina, and Tan.
Jalung had to make the trip from Long Tegaan, which is a four-hour trip to Limbang followed by another four hours to Miri before boarding a plane to Kuching.
Speaking to The Borneo Post, Jalung said he became aware through observation of people he met that education was the way out of the jungle. He was determined for his children to be educated and would walk them to a pick-up point three hours away from home for them to get to school.
However, the transport was not always there, forcing them to turn around and walk home sometimes.
Whenever Lonnie complained about the trip, he would tell her: “If you are tired of walking, get an education, then a job, and then get us a car so you don’t have to walk.”
Lonnie said her goal is to get a better paid job as she is now the highest-educated breadwinner for the family.
“My father was involved in an accident and is still recovering, so he is not working. My mother is paralysed. Some of my siblings are working and others are going to school.”
Her three siblings are making the same tedious journey to school, facing the same challenge that make it tempting for Penan children to abandon the effort.
Lonnie, who hails from Kampung Long Tegaan in Limbang, went to SMK Medamit where she scored distinction in the Malay Language and credits in six other subjects in the SPM in 2009.
She is the second of seven siblings.
HelpingHands Penan is helping the Penan community improve their quality of life. They are usually seen at bazaars selling woven goods made by Penan women. All proceeds go back to the community to educate and meet their basic needs.
Lonnie was part of UiTM’s ‘Mengubah Destini Anak Bangsa (MDAB) programme where successful Bumiputera applicants from families making below RM2,000 a month are exempted from tuition fee and given a monthly allowance of RM100. Their food and accommodation are also provided for. – Borneo Post